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Author Archive: Judy Riffle, Ed.D.

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As grant professionals, we all encounter a sticky situation, an argument, or a difficult colleague at some point in high-performing grant teams. For example, an accountant might demand something unallowable in a grant application, or someone might want to control the entire project without any prior grant experience. It is so important to work collaboratively with the team, but frustrating to deal with certain people.

During the Grant Professional’s Association (GPA) 2018 annual conference, I attended a session called “Snarks, Sharks and Drama Queens: How to Navigate People-Generated Obstacles to Grant Success” presented by Bruce Ripley. Mr. Ripley is a former addiction counselor turned grant professional, so it was interesting to hear his perspectives about working with difficult people. He had plenty of experience, and the grant professionals in the room each had various conflicts occurring in their work lives. Here are some tips and resources from Mr. Ripley.

ODDD stands for Oppressed, Demented, Disrespected, and De-energized (Sutton, R., 2017). If you and others feel all four of these when dealing with someone, you may be working with a truly difficult person instead of a situationally difficult person. A situationally difficult person may have a troubled personal life or be addicted to certain behaviors or substances. A truly difficult person may have poor boundaries, extreme personality aspects, and change their mind abruptly and often.

Since you can’t change others, change yourself by asking the following three questions. “How much am I truly suffering? What vibe am I giving? What is it like to be them?” Perhaps that difficult person is experiencing stress due to the organization’s cultural norms, dysfunction, or may be worried you will take their job away. Truly listen to the person and see if you can pick up repetitive themes or phrases. Are you automatically taking a defensive tone every time you speak with an irritating person, and don’t realize it?

As a grant professional, detach emotionally from the person. Observe the person like a scientist instead of drowning in their toxicity.

If the person is angry, focus on what they say instead of the yelling. Don’t raise your own voice—exist on a higher level. Instead of arguing, ask questions or suggest solutions. People often move to anger when they feel no other options are available to them.

Lastly, here are some suggested resources from Mr. Ripley:

Altucher, James. How to deal with crappy people

Holiday, Ryan. Ego is the Enemy

Navarro, Joe. What Every BODY is Saying

Sutton, Robert. The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People who Treat You Like Dirt.

Thompson, George. Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion, Updated Edition

Voss, Chris. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It


What methods and tricks have you tried when you have found yourself in a difficult situation in grant team facilitation?

“Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers. Some are on staff at your local newspaper, usually reviewing little-theatre productions or pontificating about the local sports teams. Some have scribbled their way to homes in the Caribbean, leaving a trail of pulsing adverbs, wooden characters, and vile passive-voice constructions behind them.” Stephen King, the master of horrific imagination, wrote one of the best books ever on the art of writing. I was reminded of his great book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, at the 2018 Grant Professionals Association (GPA) annual conference in November. I knew it was time to read it again, so I immediately ordered a paperback copy to highlight with abandon all the wonderful quotes and advice he provides.

Even if you are not a fan of Stephen King’s writing, this book will entertain you with wonderful true stories, remind you about the importance of reading, and teach you how to be a good writer. At the GPA conference, I attended a session titled “STEPHEN KING – National Best Seller, Master of Horror & Grant Writing Tipster? (How Book Club Forced Me to Read My First Book on Writing)” by Amanda Day, a fellow grant professional. Amanda and Kimberly Hays deMuga, another grant professional, recently started a podcast called Fundraising HayDay, which can be found on iTunes here. Whether you’re a seasoned or beginning grant professional, it’s a great podcast to listen to, and Amanda talks about Stephen King’s book in Episode 10 of Season 1.

I am passionate about the importance of reading and believe one can always improve their writing skills. While most grant professionals will not be able to buy a home in the Caribbean no matter how much they read or write, Stephen King has valuable advice for all of us to improve our craft. Here are some favorite quotes from the master of storytelling I hope you can use.

  1. “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
  2. “Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.” Have someone who’s not an expert in the field you are writing about review your writing to ensure you stick to the story.
  3. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
  4. “The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.”
  5. “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
  6. “You MUST not come lightly to the blank page.”
  7. “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.” Remember this the next time a proposal is rejected and start again.
  8. “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

Now get out there, read, and write!

Be sure to check out the Fundraising HayDay podcast, website, or find Amanda and Kimberly on Twitter @FundingHayDay.

Thank you, Stephen King, for providing all writers a great manual for our craft.

Thanks, Diane Leonard, for recently reminding us that grant professionals are superheroes. We need to hear this, especially when we are fighting to make the world a better place despite current troubling events. As grant professionals, we must remember to take a breath, stay positive, and pat ourselves on the back.

In July 2018, thanks to grant funding, I had the privilege of attending my first silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California with the Executive Director of Purple Mountain Institute. The retreat title was Mindfulness for Everyone, and there was a wide variety of people with beginning to advanced mindfulness experience.

The setting was beautiful and peaceful where we all lived simply and were served delicious vegetarian meals without talking, tv, radio, phones, internet, or social media. I loved watching the wild turkeys peacefully strolling around us and communicating with us. On the last day of the retreat, when people could talk again and rushed around getting ready to travel back home, I found it sad that the turkeys were also scattering away due to this abrupt change from peace, silence, and camaraderie with humans.

The daily schedule consisted of sitting meditation, walking meditation, guided meditation, mindfulness instruction, eating mindfully, and sleeping completely in silence. We could talk with staff if needed or when meeting in small groups with teachers who checked in to see how we were doing. The first day of silence was incredibly hard for me, and I wanted to run home screaming. The following days became easier, and I grew to absolutely love it. However, this intense silent practice causes one to look deeply inside and reflect. It can bring up difficult emotions, memories, or trauma. The biggest takeaway for me was realizing how awful the critical voices inside my head were, and how I needed to mindfully address those mean comments. I needed to remember to be kind to myself, and therefore, I would achieve more kindness to others.

I’ve written about mindfulness before, and here are five more tips, resources, and quotes that I hope can help my fellow superhero grant professionals.

  1. Ray Buckner says “Diminish fear by facing it directly with honesty, clarity, and compassion.” Read his article, and remember to be compassionate towards yourself first. Listen to your inner child.
  2. Practice mindfulness daily by being aware of the moment through ordinary activities such as brushing your teeth, walking, or showering. If you forget to do this during some very busy days, don’t beat yourself up. Treat yourself with kindness instead—celebrate moments of mindfulness.
  3. Dr. Jan Chozen Bays created Mindfulness on the Go Cards: 52 Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do Anywhere. Some of his suggestions are “taking three breaths whenever a phone rings” or “resolving to pay a compliment daily.”
  4. Read Fully Present by Dr. Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston.
  5. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete” (Jack Kornfield).

Thank you for all you do!

19 Aug 2018

Shark Week and Grantitude

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Shark Week’s thirtieth anniversary on the Discovery Channel was completed in 2018 from July 22-29. In 2016, I wrote about Shark Week and Serving on a Nonprofit Board. This year, I want to revisit Shark Week and show some grantitude for all my fellow grant professionals.

Sharks continue to fascinate me, and I think they are beautiful, magical creatures, although I wouldn’t swim with them as Diane Leonard (What I Learned by Swimming with Sharks) has bravely done in the past. My husband teased me a few weeks ago by asking if I was one of the people recently involved in stealing a baby shark from an aquarium in San Antonio, Texas. Well……possible, but no, it wasn’t me. I’d much rather support shark conservation efforts, learn as much as I can about these amazing animals, and share their importance on this earth with others. Let’s delve into some shark facts along with thanking grant professionals for making the world a better place.

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25 Jun 2018

School Safety Grants

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School Safety Grants and our Souls: Where do we go from here?

“Does it ever give thee pause, that people used to have a soul—not by hearsay alone, or as a figure of speech; but as a truth that they knew, and acted upon! Verily it was another world then…but yet it is a pity we have lost the tidings of our souls…we shall have to go in search of them again, or worse in all ways shall befall us.” I love this quote from Thomas Carlyle, author of Past and Present, and think it speaks to all of us still in the current turmoil of political unrest and ignorant bullying in the world, via social media or other ways. I happened upon it in a fantastic book I’ve wanted to read for a long time, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book is historical fiction written through letters about the effects of the German occupation on the inhabitants of Guernsey in the Channel Islands during World War II. Don’t hesitate to read it; you will both laugh and cry if you have a soul.

In the current world of school violence, I worry about our souls and a seemingly dwindling lack of action, sympathy, and empathy in society. Where do we go from here? The world of federal school safety action and grants has been a roller coaster ride. For instance, the National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) grant was announced in early 2018, and then revoked. This funding was assigned to other purposes under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 and the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (STOP School Violence Act). Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held the first School Safety Commission meeting behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. without input from teachers, students, parents, and school administrators. Outcomes of this commission are currently unknown. Below are ten tips for understanding and finding school safety funding.

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